SINGULAR STYLES: American Eagle Outfitters wants teens to “Live Your Life,” which is the tag line of an advertising campaign that celebrates individual style through real people and how they wear American Eagle jeans. “We’re really asking our customer to take [the brand] and make it their own,” said Michael Leedy, the retailer’s chief marketing officer. “It’s a major shift from telling our customer how to look and what to be.”

American Eagle has always been strong in denim but had gotten away from selling fashion tops and fashion apparel to go with the jeans. The retailer on Tuesday held an event in Manhattan’s Father Duffy Square in Times Square across from its three-level flagship with a contest to find 15 “real people” to appear in the spring advertising campaign. The first 25 people on line — some had been camped out since 10 p.m. Monday night — were invited to pose for portraits taken by Patrick McMullan that would be shown on the store’s 15,000-square-foot Times Square LED billboards.

This story first appeared in the July 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Shay Mitchell, a star of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” who appears in American Eagle’s fall “Live Your Life” ads, said, “This is a very big campaign. I used to model and I know what goes into that. I wish they had this when I was in high school. Because of campaigns like this, people will be more accepting [of one another].”

“We told [Mitchell] we’d treat her like everyone else because it’s a campaign about real people,” Leedy said. Mitchell said that was fine. The actress and the 14 “real people” in the fall campaign will appear on the brand’s blog, Facebook, YouTube and in a national TV campaign airing this month through September. “Starting in the spring, all the people in our advertising will be customers,” Leedy said. “They’ll be telling us about themselves and other customers will be voting on them. We’ll be crowdsourcing the talent for our campaigns. It’s not a gimmick, just the beginning of what we’ll be doing with social media.”

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